It was one of those days that remind us of why we love the game so much.
A pitchers duel between Sacred Heart’s Clare Falkowski and Nichols Megan Kyte that was the backdrop as the Sharks edged the Vikings 2-1 in their Monsignor Martin Athletic Association game that was played at Shoshone Park, Monday afternoon. The league opener for both squads.
“My first year coaching Nichols was the top team and I just always feel they’re a potential foil,” Sacred Heart coach Karen Conway said.
“I’m moving girls around. I had one that went home ill. One that was out of town for volleyball so I was moving girls around and I’m really happy with the way they’re responding.”
Athena Zak drew a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh that plated Abby Choboy with the winning run for the Sharks as they improve to 4-4 overall, 1-0 in league.
But it was the efforts of Falkowski in the pitching circle that kept the Lady Vikings (0-1, 1-5 overall) at bay as she struck out six, walked one and scattered three hits over her seven innings of work.
“I’m still obviously a little bit rusty. I haven’t pitched in a very long time,” said Falkowski. “I give a hundred percent out there and I tried my very hardest. I try to mix (my pitches) up and try to put it on different parts of the plate.”
Falkowski, who opted to step away from pitching for her travel team, is focused on the mission of building her stamina back up as she will no doubt be the Sharks work horse on the rubber this spring.
Conway said Falkowski threw well and she hit her spots an did a good job of mixing her pitches.
Kyte, a freshman, was every bit as impressive in her own right as she fanned 11 Shark batters over her seven innings of work. Kyte, who issued just one walk, yielded seven hits to a quality Sacred Heart lineup.
Throwing a solid game her lone bad pitch was a change-up on the outside part of the plate that right-handed batter Gianna Fazzolari stroked to the opposite field for a solo shot that gave Sacred Heart the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning.
Showing her mental toughness, Kyte came right back and struck out the next three batters she faced. Kyte also fanned back-to-back batters in the sixth to escape a bases loaded jam damage free. Falkowski and Conway attributed that to the fact the home plate umpire called a solid, consistent game and gave both pitchers the edges of the plate.
The Vikings tied the game in the sixth Katie Martinez drove home Anne Najdzionek who tripled. Nichols coach Holly Kemp said that this was a growing moment for her young team that has travel experience, but still learning ropes of the varsity game.
“It’s getting them to believe that we’re a good team. We’re gonna surprise some people,” Kemp said, “and it’s going to be a great season. We have a lot of faith in them and we’re excited for the next four weeks.”
In the bottom of the seventh Choboy and Falkowski hit back-to-back infield singles and Mackenzie Blake reached base after being hit by a pitch. Setting the stage for Zak’s bases loaded walk. A pressure situation that the Sharks practice on, Conway said that Zak has a good eye at the plate and was the perfect girl to have up in that situation.
“Practicing under pressure. That’s something we do,” Conway said. “That’s something we try to bring in. You are the batter with a 3-2 count, bases loaded. What are you gonna do?”
Though a walk-off, walk wasn’t the dramatic ending the Sharks envisioned when the power hitting Zak stepped into the box, it was proof to all of the girls that you don’t always need the big blast to get the job done.
“That we never give up,” Falkowski said. “That we keep trying as hard as we possibly can. We didn’t give up in that last inning and obviously we got bases loaded. It wasn’t really much of a super, (dramatic) win because she walked the girl, but we didn’t give up.”